Motiveless Malignancy

The NYT has an interesting story on Bush administration fights over torture policy. (Though, as emptywheel says, it “seems to be at least partly the product of two entities–the Bellinger/Condi- and the Goss-reputation protection entities–that have been working overtime lately.”) It claims that the CIA had stopped using the “enhanced interrogation techniques” by 2005:

“Still, Mr. Cheney and top C.I.A. officials fought to revive the program. Steven G. Bradbury, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and author of the recently declassified 2005 memorandums authorizing harsh C.I.A interrogations, began drafting another memorandum in late 2006 to restore legal approval for harsh interrogation. Mr. Bradbury noted that Congress, despite the public controversy, had left it to the White House to set the limits.

Early drafts of the memorandum, circulated through the White House, the C.I.A. and the State Department, shocked some officials. Just months after the Supreme Court had declared that the Geneva Convention applied to Al Qaeda, the new Bradbury memorandum gave its blessing to almost every technique, except waterboarding, that the C.I.A. had used since 2002.

Forced as secretary of state to defend the C.I.A. program before angry European allies, Ms. Rice and her aides argued that it had outlived its usefulness.

In February 2007, Mr. Bellinger wrote to the Justice Department challenging Mr. Bradbury’s position. He called Mr. Bradbury’s memorandum a “work of advocacy” that gave a twisted interpretation of the Geneva Conventions and told colleagues he might resign.”

This is one of the things I will never understand about Dick Cheney. It’s wrong, but still in some way comprehensible, to use torture when you think you have some truly compelling reason to do so. And it’s wrong, but comprehensible, for people in the administration to think that we had such a reason right after 9/11. But what kind of person would fight for the right to use these methods of torture after we had stopped using them?

Was there some burning need to have them available in theory, a need that warranted recommitting ourselves as a nation to the idea that they were lawful? Or was he just so committed to them that he felt that he could not back down, even in principle?

Coleridge once described Iago as “motiveless Malignancy”. That is how I always think of Cheney. I think I have some sense of what moved Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al. With Cheney, all I ever see is darkness, combativeness for its own sake, obsessive secrecy, a cramped and constricted heart, and a tiny shriveled thing that must once have been a soul. It never adds up to a human being.

Thank God he’s gone:

“When Mr. Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, the C.I.A. still maintained a network of empty jails overseas, where interrogators were still authorized to use physical pressure. Within 48 hours, he banned the methods.

Finally, last month, the program that had been the source of so many vigorous fights in Washington’s power corridors met a prosaic end.

Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. chief, terminated the agency’s contracts providing the security and maintenance for the prisons, emphasizing the economic benefits. Closing the C.I.A. prisons, Mr. Panetta said, would save taxpayers $4 million.”

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